Research has shown that engaging in physical activity can be beneficial for all human beings. It can reduce heart disease, combat obesity in children and adults, control blood glucose levels (Riddell et al., 2016), and enable one’s body to release hormone groupings called endorphins, which allow people to feel good and happy. As mental health issues continue to rise in the United States, especially among American youth (Mental Health America, 2019), participating in physical activities that release endorphins may help to alleviate some depressive feelings; however, there are many more cognitive benefits to physical activity.
Physical fitness can also promote executive functions, which are involved in behavioral control (Tomporowski, McCullick, Pendleton, & Pesce, 2015). Executive functions consist of inhibitory control, including selective attention, working memory, and cognitive flexibility (Diamond, 2015). Therefore, exercise might help children control their behaviors, pay attention in school, retain information, and think outside the box. These are important skills for students to have as they progress academically and transition into adulthood.
Additionally, participating in athletics or team sports can have a positive impact on development. When playing a sport where outcomes are unpredictable, like softball or soccer, children must use verbal and non-verbal communication skills; react quickly to unpredictable situations, which involves problem-solving; and learn how to cope with the demands of the game, such as following rules, being a good sport, recognizing different talents among peers, and learning to accept outcomes.
Furthermore, physical exercise can also be a great way for your family to bond! You can spend time together by going on a hike or playing touch football or tag in the back yard. You can visit a local swimming pool or go for a bike ride on a designated bike trial. Consider registering your children for local activities just to get them moving! There are many benefits to exercise – better mental health; increased executive functioning; and, of course, improved physical well-being!
Diamond, A. (2015). Effects of physical exercise on executive functions: Going beyond simply moving with thought. Annals of Sports Medicine and Research, 2(1), 1011.
Mental Health America. (2019, April 1). The State of Mental Health in America: Mental health facts, stats, and data. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/issues/state-mental-health-america#Key
Riddell, M. C., Castorino, K., Tate, D. F., Horton, E. S., Colberg, S. R., Dempsey, P. C., … Yardley, J. (2016). Physical activity/exercise and diabetes: A position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care, 39(11), 2065–2079. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc16-1728
Tomporowski, P. D., McCullick, B., Pendleton, D. M., & Pesce, C. (2015). Exercise and children’s cognition: The role of exercise characteristics and a place for metacognition. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 4(1), 47–55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2014.09.003